When we’ve been involved with someone who was at best, narcissistically inclined and at worst, a narcissist or we’ve felt utterly flummoxed by the change we experienced with someone who appeared to have great potential, we might become very gun-shy about new relationships. We find it difficult to trust ourselves due to feeling we’ve been misled (or that we misled ourselves in the past). It’s why one of my most frequently asked questions is, ‘Natalie, how much does chemistry matter when you first meet someone?’
The first thing I want to know is whether they’ve experienced chemistry before. And, of course, the answer is yes.
I then want to know the following:
- How much has chemistry played a part in your perception of someone?
- Is chemistry a key driver for becoming involved?
- Have your feelings and beliefs about chemistry caused you to stay in a relationship even though it wasn’t working?
Invariably, chemistry has played a significant role. With the benefit of hindsight, some realise that it accounted for over 90% of their involvement (and their problems).
I then want to know:
Was this a healthy, mutually fulfilling relationship with love, care, trust and respect, or were there issues with emotional unavailability (intimacy and commitment), balance, consistency, progression or shared core values (basically, The Landmarks of Healthy Relationships)?
And every single time, the answer is yes to the emotional unavailability and no to the relationship being mutually fulfilling.
We don’t have doubts about chemistry or get misled by it if the net result is a loving relationship.
I then want to know: Where are these partners now?
It’s all very well having what you might regard as ‘off-the-charts chemistry’. It’s zero use, though, if it renders your relationship unable to function.
Relying on chemistry is like constantly riding a roller coaster and wondering why it’s difficult to stand on solid ground. You wonder why your stomach’s lurching, and why it only feels ‘normal’ on the rollercoaster. You end up chasing a feeling that you haven’t been able to recapture at quite the same level as the first ‘high’.
If you have a type and are yet to have a successful, loving relationship with it, or you don’t think you do, but have relied on initial chemistry time and again and found yourself in problematic relationships or struggling to make it past the first few dates, weeks or months, chemistry is the pothole that you keep walking into instead of around it.
Chemistry is that hard-to-put-your-finger-on energy between two people.
It’s about how they each resonate and yes, it, of course, needs to be positive. The chemistry, however, is questionable if what results is something rather chaotic or even catastrophic.
It’s not that chemistry isn’t a factor in a relationship, but it’s too much to expect chemistry with a stranger. This is especially so when you might lack the self-awareness to understand why you’re attracted or to recognise that you’re repeating an unhealthy pattern.
It’s one thing to feel chemistry with a stranger or someone you’ve been on a few dates and also have your self-esteem in tow. This grounds you and lets them (and you) unfold to see how things stack up. It’s another thing altogether when you experience that same chemistry, assume it’s a positive attraction, and then proceed despite code amber and red alerts. Chemistry isn’t a viable reason for painting red flags green.
Any so-called ‘chemistry’ shouldn’t make you less of who you are, off-balance, or quite simply, unable to function.
No relationship with healthy chemistry should put you into a child role where they’re an authoritarian parental replacement. A relationship shouldn’t leave you (and them) emotionally unavailable, sampling the highs and ‘tasty bits’ but unwilling to put down roots and have stability.
Loving relationships or even just healthily engaging with a person full stop, have the all-important quality of balance.
In loving relationships, each partner regulates each other as opposed to being sent into turmoil.
Turmoil might be familiar, but when you choose loving relationships, you choose calm.
Chemistry, like secondary values (physical attributes, hobbies, interests and other taste-related things), only matters if the relationship is working. And you’ll know this because you’re happy together in a mutually fulfilling relationship that’s going somewhere.
Healthy, loving chemistry is a by-product of two people aligning in terms of values. Want to stop being tripped up by chemistry? Get clear on your own values and live by them. Become more conscious about the values that speak for your future partner and relationship.
You don’t know a person when you first meet them. People unfold. Chemistry is something to be mindful of when ascertaining whether you’re a ‘good fit’. It’s not, however, something to use as your sole or primary reason for proceeding. If you’re a good fit, there’s evidence beyond hard-to-put-your-finger on chemistry. And ultimately, getting to know someone takes time and experience.
If you don’t consciously choose the type of partners you want to be involved with, you will use chemistry in lieu of the vulnerability that comes with truly showing up and getting to know someone.
You will rely on intensity and the feelings you associate with chemistry to guide you, and not only mistake these for intimacy but feel unable to trust you. Those feelings may be communicating fear and the familiarity of your pattern.
Make a note of these feelings so that the next time they show up, you use them as a cue to stop, look and listen. This practice allows you to discern where you might be repeating a pattern.
If paying attention to chemistry isn’t working for you, pay attention to whether you’re more of who you are or less of it. Note whether things feel and are different from previous unhealthy relationships (which might include it being calm). Make sure you’re going beyond superficial and sexual interactions so that you can ascertain deeper chemistry. And pay attention to whether the signs of a relationship that’s going somewhere good are unfolding.
You always know you’re on the right track in terms of moving towards the loving relationship you want when, even though they might not have worked out, the quality of partner and relationship improves and/or you are flushing out of inappropriate/unworkable involvements much quicker than you would have done before. It’s called growing in awareness but you’re also altering who you will experience chemistry with in the future.